by Alex Crouzen
(With apologies to P.G. Wodehouse)
It is 2067, technology has take a quantum leap both in
miniaturising and in availability. After the discovery that basic
semi-conductor materials could be taken out of sea water, even
the smallest governments could build their own chip-producing
facilities. Single Atom Switch Technology (SAST) meant
megacomputers on square millimetres. Battery-sized power-cells
now provide months of reliable power. Globally, the connection of
data communication systems is almost infinite. It would be a
dream for hackers....
It is 2067, humanity has taken a quantum leap BACKWARDS both in
civilisation and peace keeping. After dozens of small regional
wars, and an ever increasing number of super-power
interventions in them, a pattern became visible. But only after
it was too late the experts understood why. Only after both the
Russian and the American government were 'taken over' by silently
growing corporations did the ever-lasting fights fit into place:
Money and Hacking. The first he didn't have, the second he
didn't know how to do. His name was Chris Storm. His handle was
Storm, his trade killing. Clean and simple. His last investment
was in yesterday's paper: 'want a body? hire storm.' More he
His phone went.
"London, Swede Avenue, tomorrow twelve'o clock, two grand."
"How do I get there?"
"Pay with credit card, the amount needed is on your account."
"He'll be the only one. I said enough, goodbye" Click....
Storm made a quick calculation; $200 for the ticket, $800 he
still owed. $1000 in advance. Nice.
The weather in london was shit, as always. Storm checked his gun
again. It was 11:58 and already Swede Avenue was like a desert
island to him. This meant no witnesses and no extra bullets.
Nice. Bullets were expensive these days. Storm sighted a cat
strolling through some litter. "Peng! y'r dead."
His watch now showed noon. When he looked up, a man in a black
trench coat strolled into the narrow alley. Storm calculated that
he would be least visible in the other streets when he was in the
centre of the alley. He waited.
His sight was locked onto the man's head when he pulled the
trigger. He didn't fall. The man stopped an looked towards Storm
in a puzzled way, took his hand out of his pocket an shot a black
net at him. The lines of the net seemed to grow until all
"May I help Sir into his morning-gown today?"
"Sir's morning-gown, Sir?"
"Where am I?"
"Who are you?"
"Eh, Sir has been drinking last night?"
"Sir? Who is this Sir person you are talking about?"
"Ah, Sir is joking! Hah, hah. Very funny Sir. I am amused. Would
Sir like Orange juice or coffee with his toast today?"
"Good Sir, I will tell the maid breakfast is to be served here.
I will fetch Sir's morning paper."
Storm sat up in his bed and looked around. The walls were
covered in dark-brown oak panels, engraved with all sorts of
twirly bits and leaves. The bed itself was oak too, with four
thick pillars on each side. The covers were made of silk, and the
four cushions were very soft.
He had to lose this place as quickly as possible. Luckily the
window looked easy to open and the climb down shouldn't pose too
many problems. he opened the window and climbed onto the ledge
outside. Strangely enough there was no wind and the temperature
was the same as inside.
Suddenly a little elf popped up out of nothing in front of him.
"Please do not leave the area specified as 'the area of
projection' in the manual at page A-12. If termination of the
program is desired, please initiate exit procedure as detailed in
chapter B, pages 2 to 36. If this procedure is somehow obstructed
please initiate help procedure as detailed in Appendix I, pages 2
to 23. NeuroBros hopes you enjoy your stay in our Cust-o-
Construct." .... Poof.
"May I advise Sir to close the window? The air nowadays is not
what it used to be and our air-filter has been cleaned just a
"Oh, go ahead Jeeves"
"Thank you Sir."
"You ARE called Jeeves?"
"Most certainly Sir!"
"But, but who am I then?"
"You, Sir, are most definitely Lord Bertram Wooster, but Sir is
preferred to be called 'Storm' by his friends. Has Sir been
drinking that dreadful Yugoslavian whiskey again?"
"No! No. It's just that my mind is a bit foggy about the things
I should know."
Storm had decided to play the game along for as long as it took
him to get out of this construct. What he knew about constructs
was that you could always exit them, or wake up, by going some
place or saying something somewhere. Or something like that. The
elf had said that the procedure was described on 34 pages. So it
should be quite complicated. But that was to be expected, because
whoever had put him here wanted him out of the scene for a long
time. He had to check one other thing too:
"You were fetching me the paper?"
"Naturally Sir. Here it is."
"Mmmm, seems O.K."
"Mmmm? Oh, nothing, just checking."
"Ah, fine. I will be looking into breakfast now Sir. Sir knows
how the maid can be."
"Yes, thank you."
The paper seemed real enough. The date was one day after the
alley-affair. But that could be generated by an internal clock.
The headline said "AFRICAN STATE BOUGHT BY AMEX". Any random-news
generator could think of that one. He browsed through the pages
and looked for some real news. Storm wasn't used to reading from
paper, so he had some difficulties with the small print in the
columns, but he did find some probably truthful news: "GANG HEAD
DECLARES FUSION OF BIGGEST SIRACUSE TRIBES". He had a contact in
Syracuse who told him this was going to happen. So the costruct
must have a link to the newsnet. His captor (captors?) obviously
thought he wouldn't discover the state of his surroundings this
quick. Maybe he should try to look if the personalities in the
construct knew what they were. That Jeeves fellow looked like a
sly old son, so maybe he could control it a bit.
Two knocks on the door.
A young girl with a short black skirt and a white apron came in
and put a tray with a delicious looking british breakfast in
front of him. She held her face averted and Storm noticed her
cheeks were blushing slightly. She looked at the tray and quickly
wiped a small drop of orange-juice from the tray. She blushed
"What was your name again girl?"
"Ah, and why are you blushing?"
"I spilled some Jus-d'orange over the tray M'sieur"
Suddenly she fell to he knees, nearly knocking the tray over
again. She buried her face in her apron and began to sob.
"Please don't fire me M'sieur, I just started working here and
the stairs to this room are so steep!"
"But! But I have no intention of letting you go! I shouldn't
"Oh, merci M'sieur. They said that you would fire a servant over
even a very small accident."
"Who are 'they'?"
"The other servants here M'sieur."
"All 12 of them. But Jeeves not of course. He is like a father
"Well, let's forget this then eh? I'm not as bad as they told
you. I like you, so I will reprimand the others for telling you
such dreadful lies. Now go and take some breakfast yourself. I
will call when I'm ready"
After the girl had gone and Storm had started on his toast, he
began to wonder how he slipped into his 'lord' role so easily.
Maybe the construct was altering his personality according to
it's programming! This alarmed Storm, because it meant he had to
leave this constructed reality fast, before it became real
reality for him.
The food tasted great. At least this was a prison with style.
After he got up and let Jeeves help him into his clothes (he let
Jeeves choose them), he went to the library and was relieved to
find a well-equipped computer on the desktop. A bit archaic
maybe, but the main input device, a mouse, he luckily was used
to. The storage medium were quite large squares of plastic, in
which circular disks of a grey plastic could rotate. Everything
in this house was old, so this could be hundreds of years old
too. On the 'disks' were labels with written texts like 'system-
disk' or 'comm-disk'. The latter one interested him and he was
looking for an opening where he could insert the plastic square
when Jeeves came in.
"There is a phone-call for Sir. Would Sir care to take it here
or in the lounge?"
"Er.. I'll take it here, thank you"
The ancient apparatus began to ring a few moments later, and
Storm put the horn a bit anxiously to his ear, not knowing what
"Storm, old chap! How are you! Jeeves said you weren't yourself
today. Been boozing again eh!"
"Yeah! maybe. I didn't catch your name?"
"HAHAHA! Good old Storm, always ready for a joke. It's me!
Billy! Come on! That imported stuff is bad, but not lethal! What
you say if I come over for tea?"
"Eehh, O.K. with me. I shall tell Jeeves...."
"Spiffo! Don't worry about old J, he is probably filling the
kettle right now. The old hawk always knows what to do. See you
in a jiffy, Ta-ta!" <click>
Storm had been wondering how many people were in this construct.
He couldn't get the computer to work, so he sat in the lounge,
thinking. Twelve staff, Jeeves, Barbara, an maybe this Billy.
Thirteen until now. The things he had heard about constructs were
that the cost exploded after 4 people. Expensive way to keep
Jeeves indeed knew that Billy was coming, because he placed two
cups onto the settee.
"Mr. Wodsworth will be arriving soon I suspect."
A loud gong went off in the hall.
"Ah, That will be him. Sir will excuse me while I let him in."
Storm wondered what this Billy Wodsworth was going to be like.
he had considered the possibility of Billy being another person
in the construct, coming along to check how he was doing. Well,
he would play along, keeping them in the dark for now.
"Storm! You look awful!"
"Yeah, seemed that stuff made me forget I even drunk it. How's
"Well, up 'n down, like always. Dabbling in this and that."
"Ah, now I remember, I had to ask you something: Do you know
something about computers?"
"Computers eh? Not likely. Never touch the horrid things. Before
you know you become one of those red-eyed nerds who sit behind a
screen all day long. No thanks."
"Do you know someone who would?"
"Mmm, maybe.... Old Jasper? You know, the long blonde one with
the strange accent?"
"Well, he was quite into radio's and television. Maybe he went
along the line and took up electronics."
"You got his phone number?"
"Eeeh, not with me. I'll call you when I find it."
"No, wait, I've got a better idea: I'll try some more with the
darned thing, and then I call you if it really doesn't go. I
don't seem to remember your number, what was it again?"
"Maybe Jeeves knows?"
"Ah, of course. Jeeves!"
"Yes, do we have the phone-number of Billy somewhere?"
"As far as I can recall we don't Sir."
"Thank you Jeeves, that'll be all. What was your number then?"
When Billy left, Storm immediately tried the number. If his
guess was right, this number should lead directly outside if
Billy was a real person. His captors couldn't risk giving him a
fake number that lead to nowhere, because he could become
suspicious, so Billy had to give a real number that lead out,
where he could catch the call. He Dialled and waited for the
result. If his second guess was right too, his captors couldn't
distinguish between 5 and 30 minutes in the construct, because it
would be just a few seconds in real time.
"Eh, Yes! Hello Storm! Got the old devil working?"
"Nope, you got the number of Jasper?"
"Eeeh, No, I don't think so, I lost my diary last year and with
it some numbers. Sorry"
"Ah, no matter, I'll just phone the company. Got the phone
number here on the back of the machine."
"NO! Eeh, I mean you had better not. They'll just throw you
around some telephone lines and then charge you a fortune just
for the talks you had, on top of which you don't even learn zip
"Oh? How do you know?"
"Eeh, heard it from someone... Hey, I've got to go now! See you
So Billy was one of them. He never met him before. Or better: He
never met someone with the appearance of Billy in this construct.
He could look totally different in real life. Ah well, just try
the computer once more.
"I could not help noticing that Sir is trying to get the
"Might I suggest the manual?"
"Yes, Sir, In the bottom drawer."
"Ah, O.K. Thanks."
"Anything else I can help Sir with?"
"Yes, get me a stiff drink."
After a few hours, Storm had mastered the archaic controls of
the computer. He could start the communications program and
according to the dialling he could dial a few local numbers. This
was a lot more difficult than the world-wide database he was used
to. But he tried anyway.
After a few more hours and half a bottle of Yugoslavian whiskey
he finally got through to the switchboard. A real hacker probably
would have done it in fifteen minutes, but he was genuinely proud
of himself. From this switchboard he could go to another one in
Florida. From there he attempted to call his buddy somewhere in
Miami, but the screen stayed black. It not only stayed black, but
it grew larger and blacker, enveloping him, turning
He jerked upright. The electrodes on his head came off with a
small 'plop' and fell to the floor. He was disoriented and
everything was still white in front of his eyes. He closed them
and pressed his eyeballs. After a few tries, he got some
response. Small stars appeared in the corners of his eyes and
slowly his vision returned like a large purple cloud drifting
He was lying on a stone slab somewhere in a cellar. Around him
were a few machines, one of which was obviously monitoring his
pulse. The other one had a 'NeuroBros' logo on it. That had to be
the construct. Storm took up the electrodes and examined them.
Two of them had stuck to his temples, and the third one had
probably been connected to the back of his neck.
Suddenly he heard people approaching. He slammed the two 'trodes
onto his temples and put the third one behind his neck while he
lied down again. He wanted to know who held him here and why. And
why in this way? He closed his eyes and listened:
"Can't we get it another way?"
"Nope, he has to give it to us willingly. The old bastard has
put in a protection that if he is forced to tell he forgets all
of it immediately."
"But how is he going to tell it to us? He's trapped in that
"Yeah, but we will insert a connection to Diabolo and he will
act it all out AND store the data he gets."
"Well, I still don't like it. Why can't we just read it from his
"Because It would take YEARS to search through all the data in
"Grmph. Let's check how he's doing in there."
Storm had to think fast. They would probably notice his absence
immediately, so he had to act fast too. He quickly reached over
with his one arm and hoped they didn'd look at him now, pulled
the sensor from his wrist and lied back again.
"He's gone flat! Quick, get the Doc!"
He heard one person quickly running up stairs somewhere. The
other one hurried closer and took his wrist. Storm opened his
eyes and grabbed the man by the arm. One fast knock to the temple
was enough to stun the unsuspecting man and another to the neck
brought him to the ground. He looked around again and decided to
try the oldest trick in the book.
"But he was here just a minute ago!"
"You bloody well let him escape! How long ago did you leave
"Argl! Let's shut all exits from the building, he can't be far"
They fell for it! The cellar was rich with shadowy alcoves and
corners, and hiding in one he watched the two come and go. Who
said old tricks never work! Upstairs he heard sounds of doors
being bolted. The man on the floor stirred, but storm applied
some more pressure to the neck of the man and he slumped back.
The man looked a bit like him. Maybe the second oldest trick
wasn't dead either....
Slowly he carried himself up the stairs, one hand in front of
his face as if he was rubbing the pain away.
"Ben! What happened?"
Ben shook his head.
"Can't talk eh? Here, go lie down while we search the building
if he's still here."
Again, Bill shook his head.
"You think he's not here any more?"
Again he shook his head.
"Darn. Lie down while I get the Doc."
These persons really should brush up on their history, Storm
thought. He glanced out of the door to see if the coast was
clear. It was, so he took a sprint towards what looked like the
front door. Unfastening the bolts he slipped out. It was dark so
he would have an advantage if they would follow him.
Storm quickly dived into one of the alleys and pressed himself
flat against the wall. He looked out of the alley and started
thinking about what he would do next. Get safe and come back
later with a big chance that they had gone, or stay and try to go
back into the house, getting the information now.
Suddenly Storm heard a noise behind him. He whirled around and
looked straight into the blanched face of a young girl. Wide eyed
of fear she asked him:
"Yeah, Who're you!"
"So what you're telling me comes down to this: Your father hires
these thugs to grab someone, drug him, hook him up to a construct
and then hook up the construct to this 'diabolo' guy whom nobody
"Yes. My father wanted the construct to be a custom one. He
always loved the old english style, and he put in me as well. I
always had quarrels with him, because he wanted to control my
whole life, and I just wanted to go my own way. He made the
construct and before the action started he spent some time in it
"But how did he get out?"
"He knew the lengthy escape sequence."
"How do you know all this? And how do you know who I am and that
I am the one supposed to be in the construct?"
"Dad doesn't know I still roam in the house when he is away."
"My dad lives in this old English mansion somewhere outside
London. When I was young, he used to lock me up in my own room,
so I learned to escape from my room without being caught. I
discovered that the house had numerous secret passages, most of
which dad didn't know about."
"Have you discovered why all this is going on?"
"Somewhere in his papers it sad something about an agreement
with this Diabolo, but the rest was discussed via phone or
netlink I think."
Storm fell silent. Why him? What did he know? He had been a
hitman all his life. Not a very wealthy one, but always doing a
clean job. He never left witnesses, because he killed only when
no-one was around.
"You've found me now, what do you suggest I do next?"
"Take a walk."
"In your brain."
"You've just been hooked up to a construct. Basically that's a
fast computer with lots of information. So is your brain. So it
should be possible to walk around your own brain."
"But why should I?"
"From what you told me you heard I think they want something you
know, but you don't know you know. But if you yourself can find
in your brain what they want first, you'll know why they want
"Isn't it dangerous?"
"Are you sure you want to go on with this?"
"You talked me into this, and now you're trying to talking me
out of it?"
"Well, I'm just afraid it might go wrong."
"Look, If I don't find what they want, they'll sooner or later
gonna find me, and I think I'm not going to like what they have
in store for me now. I prefer to kill myself than to be killed."
"I'm still afraid."
"Don't worry, I'll be back"
Storm connected the 'trodes to his temples and neck and plugged
the other end into the box Barbara had gotten for him. She had
assured him it was the thing he needed. She looked sincere. But
how did she get this hardware? And where did she get the
He lied down and gave the ok-sign. Barbara flipped the switch
and everything went........
It seemed an eternity before Storm regained consciousness. He
felt as if he had been submerged into a bath of honey for a very
long time, and only now could he move normally again. He looked
around. He stood on a plain of black glass, with a black sky
overhead. No sun, no moon. The only thing that gave off some
radiance was the glass floor. Storm looked down. He couldn't
really see what was causing the glow, but he thought he saw some
figures flow along under the glass.
"Somewhere out there must be something" Storm thought out loud.
Peering at the horizon around him he thought he saw a glimmer
somewhere to his left.
"Gotta start somewhere...."
After what seemed hours Storm saw a little black speck in the
distance. Storm increased his speed first to a trot and when he
became more impatient, he began to run.
After a few minutes of running he stood before what looked to
him like a big portal, made out of chrome, with doors of white
marble. In the centre of each side of the door was a big gold
ring with an enormous diamond.
"Nice! I started to believe my brain was totally empty."
Storm started forward to reach for one of the rings, but before
he could grab it, the door began to shimmer and change. The
marble melted and was replaced with black steel. The chrome
twisted and turned into ugly wooden poles wrapped in barbed wire,
and the two diamonds floated to the centre of the door and turned
into two coal-black eyes. The gold flowed to the floor and rose
again as an ugly crack in the door, slowly settling as a mouth
under the two eyes.
"You thought it would be this easy eh?" Boomed the door. "Well,
buddy, forget it" and the door began to laugh. The ground
reverberated with the booming laugh of the door. Then it seemed
as if the whole ground began to shake and wave. Storm fell to the
floor with his face on the glass. The last thing he saw through
the glass before he lost consciousness was Barbaras's face....
When he woke up he was lying on the floor of a large car. In his
left hand he had a large 6-shot Smith & Wesson. Looking out of
the window he could see the neon-signs of Picadilly Circus.
"Wait a minute! This was where I did my first job!" Storm
"Yeah! And you fouled it up!" The voice of the door boomed
"No! I didn't!"
"Sure you did! Just watch."
Just at that moment a man came out of the subway exit. Storm
recognised him as the man he had to shoot then.
"Go on! Try to shoot him!" the voice laughed.
Storm hesitated. He didn't like this.
"Come on! Have you gone weak?" the voice sneered this time.
Storm adjusted his sight on the man, and squeezed the trigger.
Storm looked at the magazine of the revolver. Empty.
"It was loaded!"
In his head the voice began to laugh. Outside the man had walked
to the car and aimed his gun at Storm. He pulled the trigger.
Before storm lost consciousness he saw the face of the man
change into one with coal-black eyes and a jagged crack as
Storm was floating in a black void. He couldn't move, only stare
straight up. Slowly there appeared a white screen in front of
"You still think you're a good hit-man?" The face of the door
appeared on the screen.
"Then watch this..." The face laughed again and slowly faded
away to be replaced with a scene of a little village square
somewhere in the south of the USA. Storm immediately knew it was
the village he had to murder a top bank official. But somehow it
didn't seem right.
The picture began to move: Slowly Storm came into view and hid
himself behind the fountain. Then a small car drove onto the
square and stopped. A man in a grey suit came out and started to
cross the square. Storm sprang up from behind the fountain and
shot the man.
He shot again!
He missed again!
Storm kept shooting at the man but the man turned and slowly
walked towards him. The bullets seemed to go right through him!
When the man reached Storm he put his hand on his throat and he
The picture slowly faded to black.
"NO!" cried Storm. "That's not how it was!"
"You mean it's not how you REMEMBER how it was!" The voice said,
mocking, as it reappeared on the screen.
"Now try THIS for size...."
The screen started to come closer to Storm. He seemed to fall
into the screen to.....
....A street in London.
Storm found himself wearing a black trench coat and carrying a
suitcase. He turned into this little alley and felt the hairs on
his neck rising. He slowly walked on and when he was in the
middle of the alley someone rose from behind a few crates. Storm
saw himself aiming a gun at him. He saw his determination on his
face. He saw himself squeeze the trigger. He saw himself look
amazed when he started to walk towards him. He saw the horror in
his own eyes when he grabbed himself by the neck. He saw himself
go limp when he started to squeeze.
He saw himself die.
He opened his eyes and saw he was standing in front of the door
He had remembered something. He didn't know what, but he
The face on the door appeared and looked down at him.
"So, the boy-scout still wants to be a killer?"
"No? he wants to be a dead killer!"
"So, what DO you want to be?"
"Ah, are you absolutely sure you aren't too afraid for that?"
"No. I want to be myself."
"Well then, I can't stop you from doing that!"
Slowly the door returned to the form Storm first encountered it
in. This time he just pushed the door and it opened...
But something else happened as well: around him the glass began
to boil. Big holes melted in the surface and soon the only thing
left standing was the piece of glass with Storm and the door.
Then he heard a laughing noise in the distance. It grew louder
and he recognised the voice.
"I can't stop you! But YOU can........"
Then the glass started slowly to flip over. The door crashed
into the black void and Storm followed.
He kept falling and falling. Storm was sure he was going to die.
he closed his eyes.
But wait! What did the door say: The only one who could stop him
was he himself! That's it!
He cried "STOP!!!!"
"I was WHAT?"
"Don't be ridiculous! I couldn't shoot a whale if it was pressed
against the barrel!"
"They wiped out your knowledge of your hacker's life and
superimposed a fictitious 'life' of a killer. You killed about 30
men in your memories."
"I don't know. All I know is that someone else wanted to find
out about your past too. I don't think they were the ones
responsible for the erasure in the first place."
"So I'm wanted by two groups! And you got me out of both!"
"Not really. The ones who did it to you weren't hunting you.
They knew that if you bumbled on long enough you would be killed.
I think they wanted you dead, but wanted to hush it up very well.
You had to 'disappear' and be killed anonymous."
"Why did they let me keep my name then?"
"Beats me! Maybe they couldn't change that?"
TO BE CONTINUED......
NOTE(S) FROM THE AUTHOR:
Phew! This was my first attempt at a serious cyber-punk like
story. It wasn't done really professionally. I know that
professionals first write an outline and have the rough plot in
I just wrote down what seemed to be a good idea at the time.
Only when I came to the epilogue I decided what all the mucking
about in his own brain was good for. It also presented me with a
opportunity to make sequels (maybe prequels too?).
I'm sure I broke many rules of 'good writing' used in real
fiction stories. But unless I begin to study English too, like
the co-editor of this magazine, it will have to do.
The only good thing about this piece of prose is that it was
done in only two weeks, writing each evening.
The name Storm wasn't 'taken' from the comic strip with the same
name by Don Lawrence, so don't expect a big, muscular man.
If you know how I look like, you know what he looks like (he's
better looking though).
Note of the co-editor:
Going to study English does not all of a sudden make a person
some kind of English God. I would like to state this before
people are getting wrong ideas here. I have been told that the
rumour went around that I have been employed by Thalion because
of the fact that Erik Simon (the inofficial boss there) thought I
was an English God.
I am none, and I would not wish to be.
Knowing English comes only from listening to English speaking,
watching BBC and reading lots of books. Every single word
someone writes down is 100% straight rip-off of words or phrases
that he happened not to forget after reading a particular book.
The more books you read, the more sources you use to rip off from
- which may just make it good enough to be called 'original'.
Only the thinking up of a plot (which has nothing whatsoever to
do with capability to write a certain language) makes up the
difference between true writers and lower mortals like the most
End of note (and of article).
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.